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Happy developers + happy museums = happy punters


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Blogged my notes at

Museum content and access for the higher education sector from the dev8d event in London, February 2009.

Published in: Technology

Happy developers + happy museums = happy punters

  1. 1. Happy developers, happy museums JISC #dev8dMia Ridge, Science Museum
  2. 2. Who? • I’m Mia • I work for the Science Museum • Yes, I have an accent (fading after several years away) • - @ me with comments. I’ll post URLs there too. • – my blog on digital heritage, blah blah blah
  3. 3. IMHO • I think museums can change lives – "Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. “ – "No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be." Isaac Asimov • Museums should be about delight, serendipity and answers that provoke more questions • Museums should also be committed to accessibility, transparency, curation, respecting and enabling expertise
  4. 4. Why am I here today? • Museums have lots of information • We like sharing it • We could guess what’s useful for researchers, educators and developers - but we’d rather go to the source. How we can work with you?
  5. 5. Some challenges • Technical – The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed • Data – We have a lot of it. A lot of what we have is rubbish • Institutional – Challenges to curatorial authority, fear of loss of control, loss of trust, fear that we’ll get the IT wrong • Funding, metrics – How do you propose agile projects to funding committees? How do you measure visitors to a mashup? • Copyright – We don’t always have image or IP rights for our objects or content
  6. 6. Dealing with the challenges • We can’t afford to build interfaces to meet every need. – But we don’t need to if we make it possible for others to build things • Inspiring examples, real success stories from users, sharing technical solutions help sector evangelisers • ‘Fail faster, succeed sooner’ – reward intelligent failure • Suggestions?
  7. 7. What are museums known for? • Buildings full of stuff • Being experts • Making visitors come to us • Being fun. Yay! 8D • Being boring. Boo :(
  8. 8. What are museum websites known for? • Helping you plan a visit • Most people use museum websites to find out when a museum is open, how much it costs, and what's on. • Which is nice... but... we can do more
  9. 9. Pretty ‘exhibition microsites’
  10. 10. Collections online • (not always as pretty)
  11. 11. What do we have? • Lots of objects, lots of images • Lots of metadata about objects • Also interrelated records on people, places, dates, historical periods, events, subjects (topics, themes) – Who designed, invented, made, used, bought, owned, donated an object? When and where was it made, used, found? What’s related?
  12. 12. What are museums doing at the moment? • One way or another, we're opening up access to our collections. – Read access is easy, write access is harder. • APIs large and small • Aiming to produce re-usable, interoperable data with clear re-use statements • Cool examples: IMA dashboard, Powerhouse Museum OPAC, Brooklyn Museum •,,,
  13. 13. We’re taking our content to where people hang out
  14. 14. What would we like to be known for? • An end to silos • User-centred, not institution-centred • Helping researchers help themselves • Helping developers help others • Being a source of content for lecturers and teachers • Not just history, biography or art – also science, natural history, archaeology
  15. 15. What can we do for you? • Who are you? University users (students, researchers, teachers and administrators), hobbyists, specialists, developers; direct or indirect uses • Enquiry-based learning; mashups; linked data, semantic web technologies, cross-collections searches; faceted browsing to make complex searches easy; museums as a place where stuff lives – a happy home for metadata mapped around objects and authority records? • What else? You tell me! What do you want to provide for your users, and how can museums help?
  16. 16. Happy developers + happy museums = happy punters • “The coolest thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else” – [ dex/CRIG]
  17. 17. Image credits • Museum building • Instrument case • ReplicaDifferenceEngine.jpg Replica Difference Engine • Happy face • Curiosity • Crowd control barriers • Silos • If not in the list,